Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Angry Basketball Fan

The high school basketball playoffs are in full swing and each game becomes bigger and bigger on the road to the state championships in Columbia. I thought I'd pass along this email from "Batik" and respond:

It's a shame that you missed a very good game between Lake City and Darlington in Lake City Tuesday night. I thought WPDE might actually cover this game, but then I reminded myself that neither school has "Myrtle Beach" in its name. I used to really like your sports segment, but now it's just a joke. I really hate the you ignore so many high school athletic programs just to serve Horry County. It makes one think that the Horry County School District is a majority owner of WPDE.


I just wanted to share with you our behind the scenes thinking on how we choose what games to cover during the post-season. First of all, I'll give you the rundown of games we covered during Tuesday night's 11pm sportscast:

1. Marlboro County at Myrtle Beach BOYS
2. Georgetown at Wilson BOYS
3. North Augusta at Carolina Forest GIRLS
4. Kingstree at Dillon GIRLS

If you are keeping score, that is 4 Pee Dee schools and 3 Beach schools (if you want to get technical, 2 from Horry County and 1 from Georgetown County). Batik's argument that we are showing only Horry County games doesn't hold much weight when you look at that lineup.
As for the Lake City/Darlington game, there's no question it was one of the better first round games on the board. Here's how we came to the decision to show the four games we did on Tuesday night. The first thing you have to look at is logistics. I anchor the 6pm and 7pm newscasts which means I can not get out of the parking lot until 7:30 pm. From our Conway studios, that limits me to what I can cover with the games tipping off at 7pm. Fortunately, I was able to get to Myrtle Beach High with 3:00 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter and stay until the 6:00 mark of the 4th quarter. With the Seahawks building a double digit lead, I made the call to try and get the end of the Carolina Forest girls game. I was lucky enough to get to the Forest with 2:20 to go in the 4th and a tie game. If Myrtle Beach and Marlboro was a closer game in the 4th, I would have probably stayed the distance and got the end of this game. The other equation is Mark Haggard. Hags has the flexibility of going further away. From January 15 to the end of the regular season, Hags and I are in an evaulation mode. We gather as much information as we can on area teams and begin to construct our watch list for our All-Hoop Zone teams. Our goal here is to get a list of about 20 players that we can narrow down to 15 and form our All-Hoop Zone team for both boys and girls. As we arrive in February, Hags and I begin to look at that list and determine which players we have video/highlights of. We then make it a priority to get highlights of the players on this list. With the first round of playoffs, we have covered about 90 percent of our list. One team that we did not have video of was the Kingstree girls so we made it a priority to grab them in the first round of the playoffs. Kingstree happened to be at Dillon in round one and then we simply looked at what other game we could get and the jaunt down Highway 95 to Wilson was logical.
Here's the irony. If the Kingstree girls were at home instead of on the road, Hags would have went to the Lake City game and paired it up with the Jaguar girls. Unfortunately, that couldn't happen. We've been able to show the Lake City boys three times this year and they are an outstanding team. It becomes a simple math problem: 34 teams boys and girls plus about a dozen SCISA squads. That's 80 teams we cover in boys and girls varsity basketball. We get 2:45 for sports every night. We try to maximize our time and resources. We appreciate the passion that all of our local sports fans have for their hometown team.
I appreciate Batik writing in and am always willing to explain why we make the choices we do when it comes to our sports coverage. We can't keep everyone happy all of the time. I hope that Lake City makes a deep run in the post-season and we can give them the coverage they deserve.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blame it on the Rain

Dustin Johnson hoisted his second PGA Tour trophy in Pebble Beach when officials cancelled the final 18 holes after two days of bad weather out west. There are some amazing stats that are now attached to the former CCU All-American.

* Dustin and Anthony Kim are the only two players under 25 with two PGA Tour victories

* Dustin is now 45th in the world and has qualified for the Accenture World Match Play Championships next week

* Dustin has qualified for the Masters and the US Open

* Dustin shot -15 under par, and amazingly, not one of his birdies were shown on the Golf Channel or CBS during their 9 live hours of coverage of the event

This has to be a first in the history of the PGA Tour! This wasn't a low level PGA Tour event - five of the top 15 players in the world were in the field and Dustin was invisible when it came to TV coverage. The tournament was played on three separate courses and the majority of the TV coverage was at Pebble Beach. This is one of two events on tour where celebrities and amateurs play alongside the pros for the weekend. As a result, you saw every Carson Daly bogey putt and the antics of Bill Murray and George Lopez and the actual tournament itself took a backseat. On Thursday, Dustin played Pebble Beach and was in a tie for the first round lead. The Golf Channel showed one sand save and one great recovery shot from behind a tree and a missed birdie putt. The winner of the tournament was on national TV for a grand total of 45 seconds. CBS, to their credit, was able to show two birdies on Sunday from Saturday's round during their rain delay coverage.

Has this ever happened in the history of the Tour? A young gun wins an event that is pretty high up on the food chain on the PGA Tour calendar outside the majors and not one of his birdies makes the telecast? If Tiger Woods shot -15 under over the weekend, why do I have a feeling that the CBS and Golf Channel folks would have figured out a way to get some cameras out to Poppy Hills or Spyglass. Same goes for Phil Mickelson or any other big name.

I understand the appeal of showing the celebrity aspect. In the year round grind of the tour, it's a change of pace and there is a certain appeal for the non die hard golf fan to stop by and watch some A-listers hack it around. But it would have been nice for them to show just a sliver of the pros and set the stage for Sunday when the tournament would be decided. CBS abandoned the touring pros on Saturday with the premise that they would get back to normal business on Sunday. But then the rains came and we never truly got to see Dustin do his stuff in the final 18 holes.

Between Dustin's rainout and Matt Kenseth's anti-climatic rainout win at Daytona, the weather put a damper on a big sports weekend. The good news is that I don't think this is the last time we'll see Dustin Johnson contending for a win on the Tour.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Duke/UNC Update

It appears that we have a happy ending in regards to the Duke/UNC fiasco. Raycom Sports was made aware of the snafu we encountered with CW and has lifted the blackout on the ESPN telecast in the entire Florence/Myrtle Beach market. This means that regardless of your cable provider, you can see the Duke/North Carolina game on ESPN LIVE at 9pm. The Raycom feed will still air live on HTC Cable Channel 6 and off of digital antenna on CW 21.2

There are many times that programming issues do not have a solution or a happy ending. A special thanks to HTC for jumping on board with us right away and helping us come up with a solution to the problem. Our management did a fantastic job of working on a solution immediately and as a result, a very small portion of our audience will miss the game live instead of the lion's share of our viewers.

A recap of the schedule for Wednesday's Duke/UNC game

LIVE on ESPN at 9pm for all cable viewers in the Florence/Myrtle Beach market (blackout lifted!) - good call by Raycom/ACC

LIVE on HTC Cable Channel 6 at 9pm for Raycom/ACC feed

LIVE on CW 21.2 (off air digital antenna) for Raycom/ACC feed

one hour tape delay on CW 21 (10pm) for Raycom/ACC feed

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Duke/North Carolina on CW 21

I have stated it many times before through emails and previous blog entries that the sportscasters of the world have no say in the programming on a television station. Many times, our management can be handcuffed as well and Wednesday night's Duke/North Carolina game is a shining example.
I'll give you the background of what's going on: As many sports fans know, there is no bigger regular season college basketball game on the schedule than Duke/North Carolina. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN, but will be blacked out in ACC markets. The game is scheduled to air on CW 21 at 9pm as part of Raycom's ACC package. Here's where we run into a problem. The CW network contacted my general manager, Billy Huggins, on Tuesday afternoon and said that if we pre-empt CW programming (which runs until 10pm), we will lose our affiliation and with that every CW program.
In a nutshell, CW is pulling a powerplay on us to air 90210 over one of the greatest rivalries in sports history. To our management's credit, we did everything we could to fix the problem. HTC is airing the game LIVE on cable channel 6 and the CW will air the game on a one hour tape delay at 10pm, but there will still be hundreds of phone calls expressing their anger and dismay. I'm with you! I'm hoping that anyone who reads this blog can understand that we were backed into a corner 24 hours before the game airs. Things will be confusing because people will go to ESPN and it will not be on because of the blackout, then they will go to CW 21 and see some bad acting at the Peach Pit and not Coach K and Roy Williams matching wits on the sidelines. Then they'll get on the phone and blast us.

I'm hoping anyone who reads this blog understands a couple of things:
#1: You should be mad - so am I!
#2: It's not the sports guys fault
#3: It's not WPDE management's fault
#4: HTC is awesome for getting it on channel 6 live
#5: I'm breaking up with the CW - no more Christmas cards, no more "hey that show isn't so bad", it's over.

If I was at home and didn't see the Duke/UNC game on at 9pm as scheduled, I would be befuddled and angry just like many of you will be. The explanation doesn't make it any better - it just gives you the background that you normally don't get when you call to complain.

To recap:

UNC/Duke LIVE on HTC Channel 6 at 9pm
UNC/Duke LIVE on CW 21.2 on digital antenna at 9pm
UNC/Duke on tape delay at 10pm on CW 21 if you don't have HTC cable

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Signing Day 2009

Signing Day has become an unofficial holiday for football fans. I'm amazed at the way things have evolved. Ten years ago, you would be hard pressed to find any kind of coverage about where local sports stars would be attending college. Now, Signing Day has become an event.
When I first came to WPDE, we would visit a long list of schools and do our best to cram a long list of interviews into a five minute sportscast (usually double the time we get). Over the years, we've realized what a special day it is for area athletes and have done a thirty minute special.
It's great to see the future stars of college football come into our studio on their special day. More important than that, we are able to give every athlete on our board a chance to have their moment in the sun on TV. By having the signees come into the studio we can give everyone a chance to have that moment.
Hags and I are a lot like college coaches in developing our own recruiting board in the month of January. When it all got finalized, fifteen schools had 47 players sign on Wednesday. 43 of those players were able to come into our studio. To the coaches and families, we greatly appreciate you taking time to come to visit us during the day.
We started shooting signings and interviews at 12:15 pm on Wednesday. By 3:00, we had shot forty interviews. As the final three people came by, we had to turn around a lot of information in a short amount of time. It's a fun challenge, but a little stressful as the time winds down towards our 7:30 pm show. The end result was a chance for everyone to be part of signing day. All of these kids worked hard to get an opportunity to play college football and deserve some kudos. It is also great to give some of the small college kids some spotlight as they tend to get overlooked when it comes to media attention.
We have many kids going the junior college or prep school route. These are players that have the ability to play in the SEC or ACC, but must take care of business in the classroom. Hopefully, we will have more success stories like Allen Patrick, who went from Hutchinson CC to Oklahoma to the Cleveland Browns.
On a side note, I remember Signing Day 2004 when Lawrence Timmons signed his letter with Florida State. Now, he's a Super Bowl champion. Timmons was the first WPDE All-Zoner to play in a Super Bowl. I'm quite sure there will be many more in the coming years.